Polish firefighters recovered 100 tons of dead fish from the Oder River that runs through Germany Polanddeepening fears of an environmental catastrophe, the cause of which has not yet been identified.
“We’ve never had an operation on this scale on a river before,” Monica Novakovska Drenda of the National Firefighters Press Office said on Tuesday.
It confirmed that about 100 tons (220,500 pounds) of dead fish had been recovered since Friday. More than 500 firefighters are working to recover dead fish in Poland with the help of dams, boats, quad bikes and even drones.
German municipalities Bathing and fishing prohibited In the Oder River after thousands of dead fish were found floating in the 520-mile (840 km) river, which runs from the Czech Republic to the Baltic Sea along the border between Germany and Poland.
Conservationists have expressed fears that the mass death could wreak havoc on the entire Oder ecosystem. “We have to see how the bird numbers evolve and what happens to the raccoons and otters,” Karina Dork, an area manager in Germany’s Uckermark, told the Tagesspiegel newspaper. “It’s a disaster that will stay with us for years.”
The cause of death is still uncertain, and Poland He offered a reward of 1 million zlotys or 210,000 euros (£180,000) to anyone who could “help find those responsible for this environmental disaster”. “Huge amounts of chemical waste may have been dumped into the river with full knowledge of the risks and consequences,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said last week.
But Climate and Environment Minister Anna Mosqua said on Tuesday, “None of the samples tested so far has shown the presence of toxic substances.” Polish scientists said lab tests found only elevated salt levels.
She said the government is also studying possible natural causes, in particular, the high concentrations of pollutants and salinity as a result of low water levels and rising temperatures.
She said the third hypothesis being examined was that industrial wastewater with a high chlorine content was poured into the river.
Water samples were sent to labs in the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Britain in the hope of finding out why.
The first reports of mass deaths of fish by local residents and Polish fishermen were made as early as July 28. In Poland, the government has also been heavily criticized for failing to take prompt action. On Friday, Morawiecki fired the chief executive of Polish Waters, the state-owned company responsible for water management, and the head of the Environmental Protection Inspectorate in response to their handling of Oder pollution.
German officials accused the Polish authorities of failing to inform them of the deaths, and were surprised when a wave of dead fish appeared within sight.
The Oder has been known in recent years as a relatively clean river, and 40 native species of fish are found in the waterway.
But now, dead fish – some as large as 40 cm (16 in) – can be seen across the river.